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February 23, 2010

Politics at the dinner table

 

Some people still observe that old rule about not talking politics or religion at the dinner table.

At least a few of them are readers of this blog, who gave me the equivalent of the spousal kick under the table this morning when I dragged a bunch of unsuspecting mayors into the conversation here at Dining@Large.

You can't really argue with the rule, especially if you don't want to argue at the table.  

But I can’t say that I observe it. Except at family gatherings with one particular brother-in-law, who on Christmas 2001 remarked at the table that all Muslims and Jews were going to hell.
I begged to differ. Then, as the “discussion” went on, I shrieked to differ: “Anne Frank went to hell?!!”

Everyone else at the table stayed mum, even the NPR-listening, Sierra Club-belonging, liberal-to-the-core secular humanists in attendance. They piped up only with a few vain attempts to steer the conversation toward how particularly good the gravy and dressing were.

The two of us went at it all through dinner, dessert and dish-washing. No china was broken. Credit the season of miracles for that much.

At the urging of our respective spouses, we’ve both tried, mostly successfully, to hold our tongues at subsequent family gatherings.

That Easter, when my brother-in-law spoke approvingly of Augusta National Golf Club’s exclusion of women, I responded, “Ha, ha, ha. I have a different view.”

My tone was gay, breezy and — OK, a little sarcastic. But just a little. No fur flew.

So I understand the value of keeping the dinner conversation light.

But a blog, even one about Christmas dinner, is not Christmas dinner. It’s a place for spirited conversation.

And if we disagree sometimes about who serves the best crab cake, how much we should tip or whether politics belongs in a restaurant blog, at least the family peace is not at stake.

To anybody out there who thinks the blog should never stir the pot, I say, “Ha, ha, ha. I have a different view.”

(Associated Press photo)

Posted by Laura Vozzella at 2:13 PM | | Comments (50)
        

Comments

Thanks for addressing this head-on. Love the new blog, new voices, and those previously on hiatus.

hooray for injecting a bit of personality and mild subversiveness into the blog.

As a lifelong pot stirrer I concur. I wrote quite a few guest columns that mixed politics and food that I think were well-received including this one on political sandwiches

Were you too addressed as "Liberal Laura", with exaggerated and prolonged emphasis placed on the alveolar lateral approximant?

We attended my husband's high school reunion several years ago and people at our table began reminiscing about someone they called "Radical Susie"--who just happened to be my very good friend and the person who introduced me to my husband. Needless to say, I have never been eager to attend another one of those reunions.

Thank you, this blog has always been about food, the end. Let's keep it that way- as it has been such a success.

Thank you, this blog has always been about food, the end. Let's keep it that way- as it has been such a success.

Anthony, are you new here? And if not, do you read the threads?

this blog has always been about food, the end.

Now that's the kind of enlightened thinking that makes America great The end.

LV's column was about food. Isn't that what they serve in restaurants?

It's so sad that Americans can't talk about politics, religion or anything else of import. Besides, it was funny.

What's funny is that LV seems to have brought these funny-boneless mopes with her. Kind of an odd compliment to her.

I approve.

I knew EL was leaving, but I didn't know this blog was no longer going to be about, you know, food and stuff. I think off-topic would be something about wine, perhaps, not your (incorrect) opinions on Augusta National (very topical, though...wait, it's NOT 2003?).

That's another thing that gets me about my brother-in-law: He didn't foresee, on that Easter 2002, that Augusta wouldn't be topical when I blogged about him in 2010. He didn't foresee blogs, for that matter. LV

panda bear, you're right. It's sad that we can't discuss politics or religion. It's especially sad that we are so polarized that there is actual hatred towards those who do not share the side of the political isle that you are on.

Actually, the last time I had a spirited meal discussion/disagreement? The O.J. Simpson trial. Seems I am due...

Oh that Anthony--such a kidder!

I knew EL was leaving, but I didn't know this blog was no longer going to be about, you know, food and stuff. I think off-topic would be something about wine,

Ahem, it's called Dining@Large, not JustFoodinIsolation@Large. People and conversation are crucial to the dining experience, at least in my world. I don't understand the fear of ideas.

At the risk of sounding like a neocon, this is an instance where the market will decide. If the market (expressed through number of page views) likes LV's brand of snark, then she will continue with posts like this week's Top 10. If the market doesn't like it, either she'll change or the blog's author will change.

Me, I like snark. Keep it up.

"Ahem, it's called Dining@Large, not JustFoodinIsolation@Large. People and conversation are crucial to the dining experience, at least in my world. I don't understand the fear of ideas."

Bark, egad, woof so, because people talk when eating, any subject can be discussed here? Then, what's the point? Perhaps thingspeoplemightdiscussmaybeevenwhileeating@large is a better title. It's not a fear of ideas, it's a call to focus.

We seem to have attracted quite a few politicians (i.e those who show up only to offer criticism but have nothing else to contribute). If you want this blog to be about food, how about you post about food to set the example.

because people talk when eating, any subject can be discussed here

You just described this blog to a tee, theteeto. I couldn't have put it better myself.

Really? Because the blog I'm used to reading included information on local restaurants, interesting recipes, and dining trends, not a seven-year-old conversation the blogger had at a holiday gathering (where food may or may not have incidentally been served) with an in-law (who eats-see, it is about food) about the membership policies of a private golf club 1000 miles away. I don't really care what the author talks about, but am I really being off the mark to think that it should be fairly food-centric? I'd further offer this piece of advice: just because it happened to you doesn't necessarily make it interesting.

No matter where EL started out, relatively little of the discussion wound up being about the topic at hand - and that's what made it so entertaining and educational (hey, it's where I learned to speak Klingon, among other things). LUV LV's new energy and perspective. Maybe one of the blogs listed to the right offers more of what you're looking for. My Mommie always said that's why they make chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.

Throughout Elizabeth Large's tenure at this blog there were periodic complaints and objections about the topics and topic drift from people possessed of no visible sense of humor. No doubt that will continue.

To be humor-impaired is certainly a disability, and to be pitied. I am sure that there must be blogs at which those thus afflicted would be more comfortable. This one isn;t one of them.

Throughout Elizabeth Large's tenure at this blog there were periodic complaints and objections about the topics and topic drift from people possessed of no visible sense of humor. No doubt that will continue.

To be humor-impaired is certainly a disability, and to be pitied. I am sure that there must be blogs at which those thus afflicted would be more comfortable. This one isn't one of them.

there seem to be a bunch of people who just showed up but claim to love the sacred old ways, but don't seem to be familiar with the blog and have NEVER commented before.

My guess is that they just like following LV around to give her a hard time.

or they are old grumpy clique regulars who most ungraciously took their dollies and left the party – lame. i was surprised that their behavior really is like a cult of personality like el general said.

plus, this is her first week and it's only tuesday. Hasn't anybody noticed how her prose crackles with life? This is exactly what we need here. More of the same old same old just isn't where it's at. Me, I like variety and surprises. Keep up the good work, LV.

I, being a previous lurker, find the new offerings quite refreshing. Nothing personal against EL and previous blog... just excited for something new.

As always JMc is more articulate than me, so, ... what he said.

Everybody thinks they have a sense of humor. Ever meet anyone who said they didn't?

What I find curious is that people who don't get or don't like a satiric piece, insist that no one else should see it.

There is something very fishy going on here.

I know everybody loves a crab cake, but I love good writing when it's rare and well done (I know, I know)

The proof will be in the pudding. The great thing about blogs is you can track site visits. Let's see how much site visits drop with the introduction of snarky politics from the host as opposed to merely the sandbox. The hardcore followers will probably remain, but the lurkers will leave because we're not as invested.

Vozellla should join the moribund Maryland Politics blog. Her style is more appropriate there. Personally, I hope the Sun finds another critic and that critic gets to start a blog. I'm counting on this being temporary.

When you can't discuss politics and religion, the conversation get boring very fast.
Every Thanksgiving we sit at the table with my sons in-laws and discuss the turkey, string beans and the weather, how dreadful.
I love talking politics, you don't have to agree with my views, but I like to hear yours. I'm not going to get mad if you attend tea parties, and you shouldn't get mad at me for working for Organizing For America.
If family can't discuss these things in a civilized way, who can?
Go LV you're doing a fine job!

To all those complaining about politics (or anything else) as a topic -- your complaints will do absolutely no good, and in fact will be taken as meaning the exact opposite.

The goal is not to please or inform your readers, it's to "generate spirited discussion." So every complaint you post will be taken as evidence of the success of political postings, therefore ensuring that you will see more of them in the future.

This is done in the same spirit that leads reporters to cover a story by reporting facts from one side and lies from the other without any analysis and consider it "balanced coverage," then view the fact that everyone complains as evidence that they are being fair.

The only way to register a complaint and have it mean anything is simply to stop reading and let the comments and page views fall.

Jack Z, your description of your Thanksgiving dinners reminded me of a friend's account of dinner in England years ago. Every time the guests tried to introduce a new topic of discussion, the hosts firmly returned to the only safe topic: the weather.

Jack Z and Dahlink -- given global warning and similar controversies, even the weather is likely to be seen as a "political" issue.

I think crisco kid is right -- those who complain that this blog has always been solely about food have evidently never read this blog all that closely before.

I'm just picturing EL sitting someplace warm, with her feet propped up, sipping a fruity drink and laughing and laughing now that she's not the one in the Hot Seat!

Thank you, this blog has always been about food, the end.

As near as I can tell, it still is.

And yeah, who ARE these people who claim to know what this blog has "always" been about, yet never seem to have had anything to contribute? Weird.

There are a million blogs and websites about food, just food, nothing but food. This was never one of them and, Insha'Allah, never will be.

I totally agree with John McIntyre.

And Laura, you're a great fit for the blog.

And you thought angry politicians were a tough crowd!
Keep up the good work.

"Stephanie," huh? Don't you mean "Madame President. Council President Rawlings-Blake. Mrs. Rawlings-Blake." After all, we're not friends, so...

Wokka wokka!

Thanksgiving conversation:
Me: The green beans are quite green.
Him:Yes, and the potatoes are very, um, mashed.
Her:and the cranberries are extremely saucy.

There is a whole Blogroll over there on the left side. Some of those blogs are so totally, crushingly food-focused as to be coma-inducing. I suggest that those of you who do not like the driftiness of this blog go find your self one that's a better fit.

If you need to attack LV because she's gored your favorite ox, then send her a private email. Posting it here is neither interesting nor entertaining. And, yes! Interesting and Entertaining are exactly the purpose of this blog.

I love McIntyre.

It's not the politics that bothered me, it's the seemingly un-censored account of LV's family problems. I find it a little too intrusive. Sorry you don't get along with your BIL. I think it's sad.

..it's the seemingly un-censored account of...family problems.

You have obviously not read EL's accounts of travels with the Devil Child or the spirited discussion of Gailor's refrigerator. Among other things, it's the personal references and incidents which make this blog popular and enjoyable.

captcha: today silences. Take a hint.

I thought everybody has a brother-in-law like that.

LV, I'm glad that you chose a politics meets food idea for your first top 10 list.

I'm disappointed that you wimped out by bringing politics into the discussion instead of something more controversial - thoughts on Golden West.

'You have obviously not read EL's accounts of travels with the Devil Child or the spirited discussion of Gailor's refrigerator.'

Yes, I have. But these were written with obvious humor and affection. That's the difference.

it's the seemingly un-censored account of LV's family problems. I find it a little too intrusive

Get real. You clearly are not familiar with the blog. Uncensored? Your righteous outrage seems fake.

This blog had numerous posts covering EL's many family trips and vacations, her stove, her favorite plate for toast that had a chip in it, toast, the quirrel's next in her backyard, a series on her daughter's refrigerator with photos, and whatever else seemed interesting at the time.

If you want a blog run by a foodbot with no personality, history or awareness of the world around her, there are alternatives. Why not go find them?

Dear Mr. billy,

I believe that your objections are specious.

Sincerely yours,
Dr. Acula, MD

Dr. Acula -

Hematologist? Phlebotomist?

Food is one of those rare, unassuming sorts of sciences and artforms.

It's entirely democratic - virtually everyone enjoys something about it, whether it's your mom's meatloaf, or the finest, most precious ingredients at the most fashionable restaurant in town. There's something in there literally for everyone.

Similarly, we involve food in most all the most important events in our lives. Birthdays, weddings, baby showers, anniversaries, parties, and wakes.

I think it stands to reason that our political lives similarly have food as a component. Freedom fries. National prayer pancake breakfasts. State dinners. Carter and peanuts, Reagan and his jelly beans, Clinton and his Big Macs.

When you consider how much foreign aid the US doles out in the form of food subsidies, and how much influence American food business has in our legislature, from Nebraska corn farms to Texas cattle ranches, not to mention many of the federal subsidies involved, the connection between politics and food becomes more clear.

If you truly believe, as many of us do, that food is more than just something we use to keep ourselves going; that food, like politics, is a sometimes hidden framework around which we build the rest of our lives; then maybe you might get a better sense of this blog.

El G, not to mention the radical vegan hippie types

It's hard to make me laugh, but this did it:

Then, as the “discussion” went on, I shrieked to differ: “Anne Frank went to hell?!!”

You have obviously not read EL's accounts of travels with the Devil Child or the spirited discussion of Gailor's refrigerator.

Yes, I have. But these were written with obvious humor and affection. That's the difference.

You say tomato, I say tomahto.

Billy, please don't inflict your inflections on the rest of us. Also, please don't be a hero.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.
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